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DF, Cafe Azul y Oro: Delicious

Just back from a late lunch at Cafe Azul y Oro at UNAM, located in the Centro Cultural, on the second floor above the bookstore (near Sala Nezahualcóyotl). The cafe is run by chef Ricardo Munoz Zurita, author of Diccionario Enciclopedico De Gastronomia Mexicana. The menu has a strong Oaxacan influence, with many types of moles, for example. In addition to an extensive menu, they have a very reasonable comida corrida, which today was lentil soup and chicken with poblano salsa (or a veg lasagne), rice, and agua de guayaba for 50 pesos. Instead I opted for the cochinita pibil, which was delicious. I cannot claim to be an expert on this particular dish, having never had a real version myself, but what I can say is that they delivered a beautiful plate of succulent pork, with a very flavorful sauce of marinated onions, tomatoes, and orange (or tangerine?) rind wrapped in banana leaf along with very soft, thick corn tortillas and black beans. The menu features modern twists on the standards, including a duck ravioli in Oaxacan mole, a Spying on the other diners around we saw large, brightly colored, superb-looking salads, big plated of aromatic meats, and an incredible array of desserts. For this, I went for the pastel mamey, a sweet, fruity custard-like cake with rich chocolate and caramel sauces and DC had nieve de leche quemada, both of which were excellent. Although not the most conveniently located, it is a wonderful option, especially for those wanting some inventive, well-prepared food at reasonable prices. Although they are open for breakfast, they do close early (around 6 on weekdays, slightly later on weekends). I hope we will have a chance to make it back soon.

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  1. I am lucky enough to count Ricardo as a friend and I've been fortunate enough to have cooked with him as well. Oaxaca is one of his favorite places in Mexico. Do go back for breakfast and have the hot chocolate. It's specially blended for him in Oaxaca and is about as good a chocolate drink as you will find anywhere in the world. He also does some amazing tamales of every variety. If they are on the menu do not hestiate, order them.

    I've been recommending Cafe Azul y Oro on various boards for the last 3 or 4 years and most people don't take me up on the recco. I know it's off the beaten path and that D.F. is an enormous city and it might not be the most conveninently located restaurant, but it is really worth it.

    BTW, the library under the cafe usually has some of Ricardo's cookbooks available; occasionally the Diccionario tambien.

    5 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Would love to get back for breakfast as I did notice the chocolates. We were lucky enough to go on local recommendation, as we would not have thought to look to UNAM otherwise. It was really wonderful!

      1. re: DiningDiva

        Dining Diva: Do you know if Azul y Oro is Open during the weekend? I''ll be in Mexico City saturday and sunday in mid july and I'm looking forward to eating there.

        1. re: Jorge

          I'm sorry, that I do not know. Since this is on the UNAM campus I would bet they are probably not open on Sunday. However, it is in the cultural center and if there is something going on at one of the concert halls or the cinema I think they're open. I do know that Ricardo opened another location on the UNAM campus and is supposed to be in the process of opening a place called "La Esmeralda" in the centro historico.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            I beleive it's only open Monday through Friday.Here's the phone no. 5622-7135

            1. re: Elchilango

              I am almost certain is IS open on the weekend; we went for Sun brunch one day -- delicious Oaxacan chocolate!

      2. Call - they follow the University calendar and are open only Saturday and Sunday during summer session. They should be gearing up to reopen on a full schedule now.

        1. Good news from Café Azul y Oro. Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita has opened a second location (same menu, same prices) on the UNAM campus. It is in a handsome contemporary space on the ground floor of the new state-of-the-art Torre de Ingeniería. The location is:
          Torre de Ingeniería
          Circuito Interior sin/nombre
          Frente a la Facultad de Ingeniería
          Tel. (55) 5623-3500, ext. 1065
          Hours
          Monday and Tuesday 8:00am – 6:00pm
          Wednesday through Friday 8:00am – 8:00 pm

          The location of the original Café Azul y Oro is:
          Centro Cultural Universtario
          Circuito Exterior sin/nombre
          Tel. (55) 5622-7135
          Sunday through Tuesday 10:00am – 6:00pm
          Wednesday through Saturday 10:00am – 8:00 pm

          This is a great place for lunch after the Sunday noon-time symphony concerts. In good weather you can sit outside. There is ample parking for 15 pesos in lots 3 and 4.

          For additional information, see page 13 of the September 3, 2007 issue of the UNAM Gaceta (Gazette) - http://www.dgcs.unam.mx/gacetaweb/200...

          4 Replies
          1. re: gringo_puma

            Here is a photo of Café Azul y Oro,
            Centro Cultural Universtario

             
            1. re: gringo_puma

              Here is a photo of Café Azul y Oro,Torre de Ingeniería

               
              1. re: gringo_puma

                I will be visiting the DF in a couple of weeks and am considering going to Azul y Oro if schedule permits. Has anyone eaten at the new cafe in Torre de Ingenieria? Is one location better in terms of food or ambience? Thanks for your help!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  Not to diss on Azul y Oro, not by any means--since I eat there every time I go to Mexico (which totals a couple months a year)--but there is no reason to make a special trip just to eat there. If you go to visit the cultural center for a concert or a film, go to the National Library, to the science museum, then great, it's there, it's on campus, and the food is respectable and inexpensive. That said, there are much better places in DF, and from most parts of the city, getting there is a bit of a pain, even with the new metro bus--with NO stop at the centro cultural!

              2. Saw a mention recently of this cafe. Any recent experiences...........and especially, is it worth a trip from downtown? thanks.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Geoff

                  I was there again about six months ago, and stand by my evaluation above. The Centro Cultural is a pretty nice area of the CU, and the Art museum and the Science museum are in the area, not to mention the National Library, so if you want to spend the morning at either museum+library and have comida at Azul y Oro, it would be well spent and enjoyable. As a food-only destination, however, I don't see the point. It's main reason for being is that there are virtually no other food options for students/workers/faculty in the Centro Cultural and nearby IIH without trekking a half-hour each way. I'll repeat, perfectly fine food and service at reasonable prices, just not a "destination" restaurant.

                  1. re: Geoff

                    It's worth the trip from downtown. In fact, it's a do-not-miss--arguably the best restaurant in Mexico City. Ricardo Muñoz is a genius.

                    Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                    1. re: cristina

                      Please, "the best restaurant in Mexico City"?? Azul y Oro does not come close to comparing with Pujol, Izote, El Tajin, etc, all of which are "white table cloth" restaurants with 2-3 servers per table, which either do traditional food REALLY WELL or push the envelope using traditional ingredients in inventive ways. At Azul y Oro it is a quasi-institutional setting, with perfunctory service and formica tables and a menu that aims pretty squarely at the middle brow. I think Ricardo Muñoz's work on the encyclopedia of Mexican cuisine is great, but that alone doesn't earn a pass into the top tier. I'd be very happy to see a high-dollar investor pony up to support a chique place for him, since he clearly has chops. As a consumer, however, advocating for a half-day trek to visit Azul y Oro seems to me irresponsible.

                      1. re: kcward

                        Izote used to be great but is far from 'white tablecloth' etc.

                        El Tajín is the grande dame of alta cocina mexicana and there is no faulting Doña Alicia.

                        Pujol is definitely high on anyone's list.

                        Chic is far from my criterion for a restaurant's excellence. I go to a restaurant for the food. Everything else is secondary. Ricardo has never aimed for chic, but he hits the culinary mark in every way.

                        Pues, ni modo--cada quien...(never mind, then, to each his own).

                        Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                        1. re: cristina

                          Cristina, I agree with you. Dining at Azul y Oro is a different kind of experience than dining at the "white tablecloth" restaurants. I enjoy both types of dining.

                          I am one of the those who regularly makes a half-day trek to Azul y Oro for lunch. There are times when I prefer to invest a half-day of my time and 200 pesos in lunch rather than two hours and 800 pesos.

                          Currently Azul y Oro has a mole festival that includes moles from regions other than Oaxaca and Puebla. This week I had pavo in mole chichilo negro, which I have never seen in any other D.F. restaurant and which is difficult to find in Oaxaca. (You can find it in Diana Kennedy's new book, "Oaxaca al Gusto".) The pechuga de pavo was the best turkey I have ever tasted.

                          Ricardo must be doing something right. The walls of the Torre de Inginiería location are covered with awards and positive reviews. His peers from the "white tablecloth" restaurants invite him to participate in various Slow Food events. I admire Ricard for not opening yet another expense account restaurant in Polanco or Santa Fe (or Las Vegas). Ricardo is not an Emeril Lagasse. He is a chef's chef, not a celebrity chef.

                          If one chooses "fine dining" restaurants over casual restaurants, that is personal preference, but it is irresponsible to repeatedly post negative comments about Azul y Oro because it is not a "white tablecloth" establishment.

                          1. re: gringo_puma

                            Would both of you please re-read my posts. My second post was simply responding to Christina's hyperbolic exaggeration that A y O is "the best restaurant in Mexico" which it decidedly is not, and I provided examples of restaurants that might be closer to the mark. It's not that I prefer one over the other or am trying to be snobbish--I'll eat anywhere from the most humble sidewalk stand on down, even. I've lost count of how many times I've eaten at A y O, but it's certainly over 50, but I just can't see making a special trip from the centro just to eat there.

                            1. re: kcward

                              I didn't say that Azul y Oro was the best restaurant in Mexico--I specifically said Mexico City because so many foreigners don't understand that we Mexicans generally use "Mexico" to refer to Mexico City, just as many New Yorkers simply say "New York" when referring to New York City.

                              Hyperbole? No...just my opinion. YMMV.

                              Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                              1. re: cristina

                                Funny, perhaps I'm more Chilango than gringo, since when I wrote that you said A y O was the best restaurant in Mexico, I meant it in exactly the sense that you describe, i.e. Mexico=DF.

                                1. re: kcward

                                  I figured you meant that, but others may not have understood. My response was just for clarification.

                                  Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

                              2. re: kcward

                                Thanks for the clarification.

                                Coincidentally, in yesterday's (15 de Enero de 2010) "Reforma", Buena Mesa section, page 6; there is a 3/4 page article about Azul y Oro's festival of Moles y Pipianes during January and February.

                        2. re: cristina

                          <It's worth the trip from downtown. In fact, it's a do-not-miss--arguably the best restaurant in Mexico City. Ricardo Muñoz is a genius.>

                          I agree it is a do-not-miss. His mole and his Pan d'Éloté are food for the gods! Food-wise, you may be right, Cristina, but it lacks the ambiance to be the "best restaurant" in Mexico City.

                      2. Okay, this falls into the "For What It's Worth" category. The intent is NOT to reopen the "how good is A y O with respect to other restaurants in DF.

                        I've been working on a project the last 10 days, for part of which I have had to review travel magazines. The September 2009 issue of Travel + Leisure was devoted to food. One article, however, was "The 30 Top Destination Dishes in the World". By desitnation dish, they meant it was worth hopping on a plane and traveling to the location for that dish. Before I turned the page on the article I wondered if DF would be represented at all. Since the narcoviolence started, coverage on Mexico in the travel glossies has been pretty thin. But I digress...

                        The dish that T + L recommended people get on a plane and fly to Mexico City to eat was the Tortilla Soup at Azul y Oro. They cited the silkiness of the broth, depth and clarity of flavor, with a nod to the effort to maintain the integrity of the original dish as it was meant to be served, rather than the bastardization it's become NOB. So, it was a humble dish, in a restaurant that is decidedly off the beaten track that T + L chose to epitomize Mexico City. I remembered this thread, and it made me chuckle.

                        I will say, the hot chocolate at A y O is the best I have ever had the pleasure to drink. Looks like between the hot chocolate and tortilla soup, I may have the beginnings of a world class meal ;-).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          Thanks for posting that! I spent a week in México City in June, and the BEST dish I ate (IMO) was in A y O at Torre de Ingeniería. It was duck ravioli with mole. I would go back there again and again, and maybe will. But, next time I go to the big city, I will stay further north than the Centro Historico, and it will be closer. I ate at a number of restaurants recommended here on Chow, all of them more expensive and with more "class" and "ambiance" than A y O, and all with very good food. But THAT one was my favorite single dish!

                          1. re: MazDee

                            FYI, staying north of the Centro is farther away from CU and A y O.

                        2. UNAM recently published the 3rd edition (bilingual!) of Ricardo Muñoz's "Los Chiles Rellenos en México -- Antología de Receta", (Stuffed Chiles of Mexico. An Anthology of Recipes).

                          There is now a web site for Café Azul y Oro -- http://cafeazulyoro.com/

                          and Ricardo has a web site -- http://www.ricardomunozzurita.com/ind...

                           
                          2 Replies
                          1. re: gringo_puma

                            Gringo, notwithstanding DD's report that A y O's tortilla soup is airplane-worthy, I have no current access in the forseeable future (1000's of miles). I am intrigued, however, by your report of UNAM publishing a bilingual ed of Los Chiles... Do you have any more info? Any ideas on how to get a copy (in the US)?

                            This is almost entirely unrelated but my supply of La Soledad chocolate and mole is dwindling and it makes me very sad.

                            1. chilibaby

                              The Cochinita Pibil in Azul y Oro is one of the best you can have in Mexico City. You can be sure you got the best.
                              UNAM has many things to discover and as a World Heritage site by UNESCO its part of the places international travelers have to visit. Important events as part of the Mexican History happened in there.
                              Best,